Are the Rockets in the market for Josh Smith? Maybe not quite yet.

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Trade speculation surrounding Josh Smith is in full swing. The Brooklyn Nets and San Antonio Spurs have been reported as potential landing spots, but there may not be a more attractive trading partner for the Hawks given their rebuilding process than the Houston Rockets. Despite lacking a “big name” who can be moved, Houston has a ton of productive players on cheap, rookie deals. There are guys we haven’t even really seen like Terrence Jones or Donatas Motiejunas who are intriguing prospects, and there are useful pieces like Patrick Patterson and Greg Smith.

But while a potential deal with Houston would make sense for Atlanta, it may not make sense for Houston. The Rockets have max cap room heading into this offseason, so sacrificing multiple assets to acquire a guy who will be a free agent in a few months may be a waste. Here’s Daryl Morey explaining Houston’s situation to Sam Amick of USA Today:

“The Rockets — who signed point guard Jeremy Lin in the summer and traded for Oklahoma City’s James Harden in late October — are on the lookout for another star and have enough salary cap space this summer to add a maximum-salary free agent. At the moment, that appears to be their path of choice.

“Most likely, it’s not going to be through trade,” Morey told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. “Most likely, it’s going to be through the use of our cap room where we have max room this summer.

“I think (the time between now and the deadline) is going to be quiet. Of course a year ago, if you would’ve said, ‘James Harden – what about him?’ I would’ve said, ‘No way. They won’t trade him.’ You never know. You stay opportunistic. But I would guess that this trade deadline is going to be quiet.”

Via Sam Amick | USA Today

This is what Morey should say. The Rockets would have to combine quite a few salaries to match for a guy like Smith right now, and despite their playoff push, there really shouldn’t be a rush to contend. The financial situation is great, they have an incredibly young core, and they have a true star in James Harden.

With that said, it’s Harden who now shares some of the recruiting responsibility with Morey.

Asked if he had a specific player he wanted to join forces with, Harden — who doesn’t have off-court relationships with any of the players mentioned — says he’s not sure just yet.

“I don’t, and if I did have a guy I’d be texting him every single day,” he told USA TODAY Sports in a recent interview. “Dwight, Chris Paul, Bynum, all of them. I haven’t come across them. I’m more low-key.”

Low-key probably works for Houston right now. They’ll be hosting the All-Star game this weekend, so everyone will get a taste of what life in Houston is like. They’re contending ahead of schedule, true, but many a franchise has been wrecked by pushing the chips to the center of the table too quickly. Josh Smith does fit with what Houston wants to do, but patience may be the most valuable asset the Rockets can utilize at the trade deadline this year.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.

Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah to be suspended 20 games for violating league drug policy

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Joakim Noah hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since Feb. 4, and his season was all but ended when he had knee surgery at the end of February. Last summer, Phil Jackson took a $72 million gamble on an aging Noah that has not worked at all, and left New York with an anchor of a contract for three more seasons after this one.

Tomorrow it will be official Noah is done for this season, but not because of the Knicks or his injury.

During his recovery, Noah violated the NBA’s drug policy and will pay for a 20-game suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Noah tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement that is prohibited under the outgoing Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources said.

Noah, 32, is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out the 2016-17 regular season and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season, league sources said.

The National Basketball Players Association’s investigation concluded that Noah hadn’t “knowingly or willingly” violated the policy and cooperated fully with the league’s probe, league sources said.

According to reports, this is not a substance banned in the new CBA that kicks in July 1, but was covered in the previous CBA. Over-the-counter supplements could be something put in his regular workout recovery drinks that he was unaware of, although we are unsure of the details.

Traditionally, the player has to be healthy enough to play before the league starts the suspension. Noah has been out for more than a month, but if a league doctor says he is healthy enough to play the then the clock on the suspension can start. The 10 games this season is no big deal for the Knicks, he wasn’t going to play anyway, but the 10 at the start of next season could sting (depending on how they plan to use him).

 

 

Devin Booker drops 70 points for Suns in loss to Celtics (VIDEO)

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Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.

His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.

Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.